Mark Dever Pastored a Multi-Site Church: The New 9Marks eJournal on Multi-Site Churches

Mark Dever Pastored a Multi-Site Church: The New 9Marks eJournal on Multi-Site Churches May 2, 2009

deverThe May-June version of the 9Marks eJournal is here, and it is, as usual, terrific.  Kudos to editor Jonathan Leeman.  Here’s the PDF with clickable links

This issue centers on the multi-site church and includes numerous articles evaluating it from a variety of angles.  This is perhaps the biggest question today for many evangelicals regarding polity, and it would be well worth your time to read a number of these pieces.

1. Mark Dever reveals (cue drum roll) that he has pastored a multi-site church:

“It was the early 1990’s. I was the associate pastor. We had a thriving congregation in the middle of the city, but our building was full, packed with hundreds of college students. At the same time, we had concentrations of members both in the north and the south of our city. So we came up with an innovative idea. We would have three congregations, but one church.

How did we remain one church? We maintained one name, one budget, one membership role, one set of elders, one evening service, and united members meetings. On Sunday mornings, however, the north and south congregations would meet at 9:30 while the main central congregation would meet at 10:30. This allowed the preacher at either the North or South congregation to preach, and then to sprint across town to the central congregation, arriving just after the singing and in time for the sermon. Whew!”

2. Pastor J.D. Greear, who leads a multi-site church, offers this in defense of multi-site churches (made me think):

“Some say that when a church reaches capacity it should just plant a new church. This is certainly a good option, and one we are pursuing concurrent with our campus-multiplying strategy. However, most studies show that church planting will not itself alleviate space needs of a local church. Many churches have found that even when they convinced 200 of their people to go and start a new church (an extraordinarily difficult feat, I might add!), they ended up making up that growth in the original congregation within a few months. In other words, even if you plant 10 churches out of your church in 10 years, chances are that you will still be dealing with space problems each year.”

3. Greg Gilbert provides a taxonomy of multi-site churches:

“Congregational?  Presbyterian?  Episcopalian?  Presbygational? Conbypalian? Epigregyterian?  I’ve heard them all (even made up a few myself).”

After this amusing introduction, he goes on to walk through the actual polity of a multi-site church.  It’s helpful, coming from one of evangelicalism’s up-and-coming writers.

4. Matt Chandler, who is seemingly everywhere right now, asks some questions about multi-site churches:

“And so after studying the issue, we decided to go multi-site. Yet we still have some serious concerns and questions about the multi-site idea even as we participate in it. The problem that haunts us is a simple one. Where does this idea lead? Where does this end? Twenty years from now are there fifteen preachers in the United States?

We have other questions, too. Is multi-site ministry a legitimate use of technology or an illegitimate one? Will the multi-site idea weaken the church at large by squashing the diversity of teachers, ideas, and leaders in the west? I’m not sure I can answer these questions. I know that there are many who are simply peddlers of God’s Word” who are in this thing for themselves and not the name of our great God or the health of his bride. My hope is that the Spirit would leverage the proclamation potential and frustrate the peddlers.”

There’s much more to peruse and ponder here.  I have a short review of a notable book called unChristian by Dave Kinnaman, the President of the Barna Group.  It has sold over 100,000 copies.

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